Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Twilight Struggle Was Not The Long One

Ted and I spent this past weekend at the GMT Weekend, sponsored by renowned war game manufacturer GMT Games. I’ve been drifting more and more in the war gaming direction over the last year, and I was looking forward to digging into it a bit more.

Friday evening was relatively light, as my only two plays were games from the Down in Flames series. These are really a single game about WWII-era dogfighting with lots of supplements that add new planes and theaters. At it’s core, it’s a card game in which you control a leader and a wingman. It’s very quick to learn, and it plays quickly with between two and eight players. What makes is very cool is the campaign system. If your pilots survive, you get to run them again in latter missions. As you accumulate experience and kills, they get better equipment and special abilities. If your pilots are shot down, however, that’s it for them. Mike Lam runs this event all weekend, and it’s very well-done. He posts pilot records for each theater, so by looking at the wall you can see how people are doing. This carries over from convention to convention, and if you make Ace (five kills) get a T-shirt. It was a lot of fun to play, and I’m thinking about doing something similar at PaulCon this year. To that end, I picked up Zero! and Corsairs & Hellcats, the two in-print games in the series.

On Saturday, I played one game, but it was worth it. We threw down on a four-player game of The Napoleonic Wars, which Ted and I had been itching to play for a long time. If we were looking for a chance to learn how the game works, this was certainly it. One of the major features of the game is that is has the possibility of ending after any of the five turns. It didn’t. We ended up going the distance, playing five turns over the course of about ten hours. As the Austrians, I was mostly a passenger, especially for the first three turns. I knew that was likely to happen, which is why I volunteered to play them. After nearly being conquered by the French at the end of turn three, I actually switched camps and improved my position quite a bit in turn four. Sadly, the French fell apart in the final turn, and as their support eroded, the Russians and their Prussian allies reversed my prior gains. I can see how the praise and criticism that gets applied to this game makes sense, and I can’t imagine playing it very often, but I had a great time. It was a crazy and epic game. I’ve got the second edition on pre-order, and I’m looking forward to having it appear.

Sunday, I actually played a non-war game: Winds of Plunder. This is a very solid game about piracy, and I’m not just saying that because I won. I’ll be talking about it on a future show, but I think it’s best described as a thematic experience that uses modern, elegant mechanics (which is different than saying it’s a Euro game about pirates).

Ted and I headed home after that, but we still had one game left in us. We finished off the weekend with a game of Twilight Struggle, and it confirmed the opinions I developed after Wednesday night’s play. This one turned out to be nail-biter, as it lasted a full ten turns and ended with a single-point victory for the Soviets (controlled, this time, by me). I’d heard concerns that the USSR doesn’t have much of a chance in the Late War phase, but that’s clearly not true, as Ted is hardly an inexperienced US player. Certainly, the pendulum does swing in favor of the Americans, but the Soviets can hold out long enough to take the victory. I suspect this one will be coming to the table a fair bit, as I like the feel of the game, and we were able to play out the whole thing in about four hours.

I predicted I’d get four games in this weekend, while Gwen picked three. I guess I won the bet. I certainly had fun, and I’d love do it again in the fall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rue Britannia!

10:24 AM  

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